Pomona Monitors Bike Theft Through Expanded Camera Network

Pomona College will be the last of the five Claremont Colleges to expand security camera surveillance to bike racks. 

According to Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services Bob Robinson, the college began adding 61 cameras around bike racks in August. Those cameras will be functional beginning Dec. 1.

Interim Director of Campus Safety Stan Skipworth said that since he arrived on campus, bike thefts have been the most reported incidents. Skipworth said that new measures have been taken, such as altering patrolling strategies, to help monitor the activities in and around the bike rack areas. 

According to Robinson, Campus Safety will be monitoring the footage. Robinson said that the total count of cameras on campus is now about 150, which includes the cameras in parking structures that were installed at the time of those structures’ construction three years ago.

According to Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes, the conversation on implementing cameras dates back about four years when Pomona asked the campus safety director at the time, Shahram Ariane, to research the general rise in thefts. Campus Safety found five “hot spots” where bike thefts occurred most frequently.

Townes also cited cases in the past when Pomona had been able to catch suspicious figures with the help of the other colleges’ security cameras.

He added that the implementation of security cameras at Pomona is not a direct consequence of any recent, visible rise in crime rate, but rather an ongoing conversation to improve security.

“There are some periods when we’re more concerned with than other times,” Townes said, “such as in the beginning of the year when there are new students who may not know to have a U-Lock.”

According to data from Skipworth on reported criminal activity, in September there were 77 reported incidents, in October there were 69 and in November so far there have been 28 reported incidents at the colleges.

“I think what we’re seeing is a very small sample to what actually is probably a downward trend,” Skipworth said.

Townes said that security cameras are not being installed to enforce school policy on students. The administration will only respond to footage if a camera captures criminal activity.

“The college is not going to go to those cameras to look for policy violations,” Townes said. “It’s our clear intention to use it for the purposes that it was set up for, which is monitoring bike carrels.”

Steven Chen PO ’17 thinks that making Pomona’s cameras known to the public would help dissuade attempted theft. A resident of the basement of Blaisdell Hall, Chen woke up around 1 a.m. earlier this semester to two people in his room. 

“I thought I was dreaming or something,” Chen said. His laptop and iPad were stolen. 

Chen said he used to leave the door leading to the patio unlocked because it was the most convenient way to get to his room and because he believed Claremont to be a safe place. He now makes sure to lock his doors.

“We have the reputation of being wealthy college kids who don’t really watch their stuff well and leave their doors unlocked,” Chen said. Cameras might change that perception, he suggested.

Skipworth encouraged students to visit the Campus Safety website to view the best practices to prevent criminal activity.

“Just locking things up is a tremendous deterrent from any type of crime,” Skipworth said.

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